Gilbert Public Schools intends to spend its next round round of federal coronavirus relief money to address learning loss, beef up instruction and compete for talent in its workforce,

Superintendent Shane McCord presented the plan on how the district would spend the $22.04 million it anticipates receiving from the third round of Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief, or ESSER III, funding from the federal government. Congress passed the relief package in March. The presentation happened during the study session portion of the governing board’s Sept. 14 meeting.

The district has submitted its application for the funding, but final approval has not yet been received, McCord said.

The district plans to allot $4.4 million to address learning loss, a stipulation to receive the funding. That will include $2 million for English language arts curriculum adoption to bring it up to date and meet the needs of all students, $1.2 million for on-demand tutoring for secondary students and $700,000 for program supports for K-12 students that will extend learning opportunities outside the school day, including for after-school, intersession and summer program opportunities.

The remaining $17.64 million is classified as for discretionary spending, for which the district has identified nine different uses.

The largest spends are for $7 million for a one-time 3% pay bonus that will help the district remain competitive among East Valley districts, and $4.37 million for a one-time COVID-19 mitigation stipend that will be paid to certified teachers.

Also included are items such as $2.9 million to start refreshing technology devices that the district issues to elementary students, $650,000 for science resources for students in grades 7-12 and $300,000 to administer PSAT tests to 10th graders.

McCord said the district must spend the money it receives in ESSER III by Sept. 30, 2024.

In other items:

  • The board unanimously approved an increase of $1.50 per hour for all hourly employees, a $0.70 per hour inflationary increase to the base rates for all hourly support staff positions and a pro-rated $1,500 in one-time supplemental pay for salaried positions for the 2021-22 school year to offset inflation.

  • The board unanimously approved paid up to eight days of paid sick leave benefits, under certain conditions, for employees due to the COVID-19 pandemic. McCord noted the district is still contending with COVID-19 and the new delta variant and that federal benefits under the Families First Coronavirus Recovery Act expired in January. He said approval of the benefit provides the district with increased ability to manage outbreaks and will assist in maintaining the district's workforce to meet student needs.